Avalanche shuts down section of Seward Highway

The avalanche took place at Mile 45, cutting off peninsula residents’ route to Anchorage.

Snow and debris from an avalanche can be seen near Mile 45 on the Seward Highway on Monday. An avalanche shut down traffic on both sides Monday afternoon. (Photo courtesy Goldie Shealy)

Snow and debris from an avalanche can be seen near Mile 45 on the Seward Highway on Monday. An avalanche shut down traffic on both sides Monday afternoon. (Photo courtesy Goldie Shealy)

An avalanche estimated to be about 200 feet wide and 4-6 feet deep cut off travel to and from the Kenai Peninsula via the Seward Highway for several hours on Monday.

Shannon McCarthy, a media liaison for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said she first received a call at 4:22 p.m. on Monday about the avalanche, which blocked the highway at Mile 45. She then called avalanche specialists who were responding to the scene, she said.

As of Monday at 6:30 p.m., the road was still closed and McCarthy said they were not expecting it to reopen until around 10 or 11 p.m. that evening. As of 6:30 p.m., avalanche specialists and two loaders had already responded and were planning to do more avalanche mitigation to prevent further natural avalanches from occurring.

McCarthy said that while clearing the debris was not expected to take long, they were concerned about keeping the state workers responding safe from further incidents. There were, generally, “unstable snow conditions” throughout the region, McCarthy said, noting an avalanche that occurred in Hatcher Pass on Friday.

That avalanche closed the road into Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna mountains. Crews were still working to clear the roads hours after the initial avalanche.

Facebook user Goldie Shealy said Monday at around 6:20 p.m. that they arrived at the scene of the avalanche at around 4:15 p.m.. At around 6:30 p.m., Shealy said she was informed that it would be about two to four hours before they could continue traveling because of planned mitigation work.

“The mountainside is pretty loaded with snow,” Shealy said.

As of 6:45 p.m., the road had not reopened. Further details about the avalanche can be found at 511.alaska.gov.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

Motorists await the resumption of traffic after an avalanche closed a section of the Seward Highway at Mile 45 on Monday, March 29, 2021 in Alaska. (Photo courtesy Goldie Shealy)

Motorists await the resumption of traffic after an avalanche closed a section of the Seward Highway at Mile 45 on Monday, March 29, 2021 in Alaska. (Photo courtesy Goldie Shealy)

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